I grew up with hand drawn animation everywhere in my life. I lost count how many times I watched the classic Disney films – Aristocats was past the hundred count, at minimum. Anime films kept the momentum going through my teen years and into adulthood with the likes of Studio Ghibli and Satoshi Kon’s works. The art is feast for the eyes. But when it comes to pure visual indulgence, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is my favourite. The gothic style, imaginative world, and fluid animation never fail to leave me in awe.
Some months ago, I acquired several animation cels from Bloodlust and after finally framing my favourites, I thought it a good opportunity to share my passion for cels with you all. So here’s a quick introduction to anime cels. (Every Bloodlust cel in this article is from my collection.)
A cel derives its name from celluloid, the plastic on which artists painted the layer of a frame. However, celluloid is highly flammable – old film reels would catch fire from the heat of a cinema projector – and was replaced by cellulose acetate.
Each element of a scene usually goes on a separate layer – one for the background, one for each character – to avoid the need to redraw the whole scene every frame. It is common in lower budget productions to find a character’s arm, for example, on a separate layer for even more time efficiency. This does result in the character looking a little stiff, however. Some mad men will redraw everything for each frame in key shots to make them as beautiful as possible, which we will see later. It isn’t unheard of to use a physical model in the background either instead of painting it.
Genga vs. Douga
Most cels you buy come with the corresponding production sketch, or ‘douga’ in Japanese, stuck on the back. Artists refer to a douga to paint the exact frame needed – the different colours on the sketch denote the levels of shading and differentiate parts of the subject.
It is easy to confuse douga with ‘genga’, which are the drafts of a cel. A genga, often drawn by the lead animator of the scene, gives an idea of how the subject should look, whereas a douga is the exact blueprint of the final cel. Once an artist reaches the douga stage, the decisions should be final.
The price of cels vary immensely, even within the same series. Three key factors determine the value in most cases:
Condition: A cel in great condition is obviously worth more.
Source popularity and scarcity: Cels from popular shows are more sought after, naturally, and thus increase in value. However, the number of cels produced for a series is also a factor. Dragon Ball Z, while more popular than Evangelion, has so many more frames available that if a fan wanted one of, say, Goku, they have countless choices. But if you wanted one of an EVA Unit-01, you are limited to 26 episodes and a couple of movies worth of cels. As a rule, the most expensive cels in terms of anime are from Studio Ghibli productions. Not only are their films popular and gorgeous, they only have cels for 90-120 minutes of screen time.
Framing: Once you start comparing cel value within a single production, it all comes down to framing – what looks best on my wall. The crown jewels are what we call ‘hero shots’. A major character will fill the frame like a perfect photo, their face will be visible with eyes open, and have no missing parts for another layer, as mentioned earlier. The value also goes up with the importance of the scene – this is the ‘cool’ factor. A hero shot of Goku from the Saiyan Saga will be valuable. A hero shot of when Goku goes super Saiyan for the first time will be worth ten times more.
The following cel of D is barely worth anything since you can’t make out much detail and the frame looks empty without the background (I included the exact screenshot for comparison). The ‘shadow’ image is the douga pasted on the back.
In Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, I’d wager the cels for the two screenshots below would be worth the most of the entire film. They look great with or without the background, have perfect framing, and ooze cool.
You can greatly increase the value of a “weak” cel – a character missing an arm and poorly positioned in the frame – by combining it with the other layers. If you can get the background, the missing arm, and the other character she’s talking to, which balances out her position in frame, the value now jumps back up.
Look at my cel below of Bloodlust antagonist Meier Link missing his lower legs and the screenshot of this cel in action. Should I find a frame with the carriage, it would be perfect.
The next cel of interest is the following close up of Meier. It looks odd, doesn’t it? The grey shading on his left cheek isn’t good, no? And what is with that thumbprint on his chin?
Well, look at this cel in the film. That shading on his left cheek is actually a special paint that gives a glow effect under a certain light. It’s magic!
You may be interested to know that artists paint cels from the back, not the front. Painting from the front looks great on canvas to give texture to portraits and the like, but with animation, you need that smooth, even finish provided by the celluloid. It’s hard enough that artists need to keep frames consistent, but they have to paint in reverse as well? That’s nutty.
Here is the above cell of Meier from the back.
Lastly, this is my favourite piece in my collection. You will recognise it as the feature image from my Vampire Anime Guide in the side bar (my cel is a few frames earlier). It was pure fortunate to have stumbled upon this cel so similar to the image I had used.
This is a single cel – no layers. The team redrew the complete frame each time for this shot, allowing for subtle movements in the hair and lighting. That is a lot of work for a second or two of footage. The mad men are dedicated!
My next goal is to acquire some great cels from Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but they aren’t cheap if you want a good one. Reinhard, where are you!?
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a GREAT New Year to you all, dear readers!
As another year ends, it is time to update past reviews to reflect any changes in my thoughts on certain anime. I think it’s important to look back and learn, as I did with My Former Favourites list versus My Current Favourites list. There aren’t as many changes compared to 2.0. Furthermore, only changes of which I am certain went into effect – nothing pedantic. I hate pedantry.
The majority of adjustments this time relate to my increasing standards or rather, me going too easy in earlier reviews, wishing they were better. Ah My Goddess Season 2 leaps out at me as one such case. I truly wanted it to have what I loved about the first season, but it clearly didn’t – I say as much in the text of the review!
Similarly, a dozen awards, both positive and negative, have been stripped from titles. The awards are to reflect the best or worst of their criterion and some of choices no longer fit. In the cases of Allison & Lillia and Angel Heart (my 7th and 8th reviews), for example, their lead characters are good, but not noteworthy. My standards were so much lower back then.
The full list of changes are below.
Lastly, dear readers, I hope to see you all for the next year and many more beyond.
Patch Notes 3.0
Allison & Lillia and Baccano – both of these broke last year as well. In fact, A&L’s trailer was the first I tried to upload myself, but YouTube flagged it within seconds. The studio really doesn’t want anyone to know about this anime. The best I can find is the OP song without animation – can you believe it?
Ah! My Goddess: Fighting Wings – dropped to Low rating, compressed art/music/story sections, and removed the awards, as OVA don’t qualify unless significantly different from the main series. This wouldn’t have been reviewed in the first place, had I realised it was an OVA.
Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy – dropped to Low rating – should have been this from the start. I was too nice. This is a pointless second season. I didn’t even have to change the body text.
Allison & Lillia – removed Strong Lead Characters award. Good characters, but not great.
Angel Heart – removed Strong Lead Characters award. Good characters, but not great.
Ano Hana the Movie – dropped to Low rating for much the same reason as Ah! My Goddess season 2 – pointless addition to the series.
Aria the Animation – dropped to Low rating. I was being kind with Aria. I mean, it’s so nice to you – how can you be cruel to this series? In truth, it has bothered me for a while that I wasn’t honest with this one. Aria could have done so much more.
Asura Cryin’ – dropped to Very Low rating. How did I savage it in the review yet score it as a mere Low? Added an Awful Dialogue award. Asura Cryin’ sucks!
Bakemonogatari – removed Fluid Animation award. The animation is good, but there isn’t enough for someone to watch specifically for the animation.
Bartender – removed No Development award. It doesn’t apply to this type of series.
Berserk (2016) – dropped to Low rating. I think I overrated this one because it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had been told. True, the CG was that bad, but the story had good elements. Still, more bad than good and thus a Low rating.
Blood Lad – erroneously had a Medium rating – fixed to Low. Not sure how I didn’t notice for so long.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices – dropped to Low rating. I trashed this film in the review and yet it still wasn’t enough. Several times in recent months, I’ve actively told people not to waste their time with Lost Voices. This doesn’t feel like a Shinkai film either.
Clannad– dropped to Very Low rating. Every time I think of this anime, my opinion of it worsens and it just so happens to be the first title I think of in relation to worst anime. The stupidity of the moral lesson, the drama— Better stop there before I repeat the whole review.
Erased – dropped to Medium rating. On rewatch, I noticed the lack of skill in crafting the mystery, giving a feel of half a series. Also removed the Strong Lead Characters award.
Full Metal Panic – removed Fluid Animation award. The animation is good, though certainly not top tier for the industry – increasing standards.
Infinite Ryvius – art downgraded to Very Low. There’s no way I wouldn’t have given it the lowest rating after seeing that art. Must have been a mistake.
Karas – removed Riveting Action award. Karas’s action looks great, but it isn’t riveting due to a lack of story or strategy within the action scenes.
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV– dropped to Low rating. This 2-hour commercial didn’t deserve higher. Furthermore, having completed the game, Kingsglaive is largely pointless and should have been in the game itself.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi – dropped to Very Low rating. This anime is garbage. When I reread the review, I expected the lowest rating at the end based on what I had written. I was surprised to see a generous ‘Low’. I had rated it higher only because I had seen worse.
Michiko & Hatchin – removed Stunning Art award. I believe I just wanted to give it something positive. The art is good, certainly, but I would never point to it as an exemplar of anime.
Mind Game – story downgraded to Medium. The high rating must have been a mistake. I never recall liking it that much. Still a crazy film though.
Place Promised in Our Early Days – dropped to Low rating. Another Shinkai piece I went too easy on. Because I had already thought less of Place Promised than his other works, at the time, I must have settled for the medium tier, when honestly I should have gone further down. Shinkai is a director with a portfolio split down the middle between boring work and great work. Thankfully, he’s on an upward trajectory.
Re:Zero – dropped to Low rating. The more I think of Re:Zero, the worse it becomes. We truly have the stupidest protagonist in anime here and that princess selection episode, wow, spectacular… Humanity is collectively dumber for having seen that.
Sword of the Stranger – removed Stunning Art award. The art’s quality is more from the great animation rather than the overall art.
Tokyo Ghoul – dropped to Low rating. I went too easy on Tokyo Ghoul. A truly disappointing anime.
Zoids New Century Zero – removed Fluid Animation award. Yes, the animation is fluid, but not put to outstanding use, as I would expect of the award.
For most of this site’s early reviews, I revisited anime I had already seen to build a solid foundation. However, rewatching so many episodes was time-consuming and in the end, I had to skip a number of series that were either too long or not interesting enough to warrant a review.
This article will be a list of brief reviews, of sorts, from memory as I consider whether it’s worth going back to any for full review. (I’ve likely forgotten a dozen more titles.)
Agent Aika is the sole anime that’s honest about panty visibility with the length of anime skirts. Finding a safe for work image for this article was a challenge (the secret was in the camera angle…). Aika is some Charlie’s Angel-type working as a salvager and has a magical transformation – if you can call being molested to near nudity a magical transformation (too weird for words) – to fight off other groups. It’s a garbage show with more panty shots than sense, story, and substance combined.
This is a weird one. I remember Argento Soma being similar to the animated film The Iron Giant, except that the giant is an alien and one girl falls in love with it (I think). The protagonist is some emo, which created this slow and depressing atmosphere that bored me. I barely remember Argento Soma.
Spinning top battles. The Japanese can turn any idea into an anime. Interestingly enough, Beyblade isn’t as out there as you would imagine. The Japanese play a spinning top duel game called Beigoma, which you can see here on Begin Japanology (love this show). Of course, you can’t issue commands to your Beyblade top as they can in the anime. Beyblade is about a collective people sharing in a delusion that you can yell at a spinning top to turn on the ‘Eye of the Tiger’, calling upon a spirit inside the top. This anime sucks. I ended up watching every episode in broken chunks each morning because of my younger brother.
A friend of mine was obsessed with Black Cat – ‘best anime ever’ obsessed. In the face of such obsession, I had to watch it. And…I still don’t get it a decade later. Why did he love Black Cat so much? Why? I never got a clear answer. This bounty hunter anime is bland, forgettable, with no reason for recommendation. All I properly remember of the story is one moment in the finale when a character transforms into a hideous blimp of a woman – literally a blimp – and a girl looks up and says, “Wow, so beautiful!” Still makes me laugh.
The art style for Blassreiter drew my initial interest, but it was worth nothing in the end. The plot is similar to Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress with the protagonist infected by the cybernetic enemies, but in control of himself and his powers. Belongs in the slush pile.
What a crapfest… No anime knows how to pad the story better than Bleach does. For those who haven’t seen this, the plot maintains momentum for two arcs ending in the reveal of the true villain, and what follows is nearly 300 episodes of padding. The filler is filler. The canon is filler. Everything is filler in Bleach. It throws one enemy after the other at Ichigo and company amid power resets every few seasons. Very Low rating.
Of all the anime on this list, Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the better titles. The first season is a typical monster-of-the-week format with Sakura capturing spirits for her card deck, but the second season goes into a proper story that works. Young girls will love Cardcaptor Sakura in particular.
Another CLAMP title. A boy finds an abandoned android assistant, but unlike the other ‘Persocoms’, she seems to have consciousness. Despite powering on the android by going to second base, Chobits is a timid romance that meanders to no payoff. Typical shallow anime romance.
Crest of the Stars & Banner of the Stars
I liked this one. Crest of the Stars is a mix of Martian Successor Nadesico and Escaflowne following a human and an alien elf princess on the run amid a war between their peoples. I won’t revisit this because apart from having too many episodes, a dozen other anime do a better job today. Maybe if the visuals were appealing I would make the effort.
Devil May Cry
Where is Dante’s charm? Play the game instead.
Dragon Ball Z
I am not watching this behemoth again. I saw Dragon Ball Z more times than most in my teen years, but it has been many years since I’ve had anything good to say about this repetitive, plodding battle shounen. Goku ranks among the worst characters in fiction. The future Trunks standalone movie is good, being the only Dragon Ball Z story with consequences and no filler. I recommend that piece.
Gunbuster is bad. Geneshaft is the same anime, yet somehow worse.
I have seen GetBackers two or three times already, so this should receive a full review, no? Well, I may have enjoyed it plenty an eon ago, but I can predict what I would think of it now. In this world, super powered humans work in pairs for various professions, (thieves, bounty hunters, bodyguards, typical shady jobs) clashing with other duos on every assignment. The powers are cool – glasses guy can force illusions upon others akin to Sharingan, which is a favourite power type of mine – the action is decent, and I recall hilarious comedy. Unfortunately, after several mission-of-the-week episodes, everyone enters a cyberpunk slum monolith controlled by an emo kid with tech powers, at which point it becomes boring. GetBackers does have the accolade of best use of sudden chibi art for protagonist Ginji.
This belongs on the worst anime list. An all-boy school pervs on an all-girl school after they merge for ‘psychological stimuli’. I thought Green Green was hilarious in high school. I was also an idiot. Hey, at least the main relationship has more progress than most anime romances.
.hack was the original Sword Art Online. Except it wasn’t. An anime about a no-life kid trapped in a VR MMO with a Guardian item that destroys anyone who tries to attack him should be an action, intrigue, and wonder filled romp, a slam-dunk success. What we have instead is a bunch of noobs sitting around chatting about nothing. .hack is the most boring anime ever made. You’ll be a puddle of ooze by the end. That said, the soundtrack – the soundtrack! – oh boy, let me tell you about the soundtrack. 10 out of 10. Phenomenal. It deserves a better anime.
Kiddy Grade is GetBackers but with lolis instead of men and without the comedy or charm. The main girl can create a whip by drawing with her lipstick – creative, to be sure, though not enough.
Garbage harem. A bunch of girls wants to shag harem protagonist guy because his special mayonnaise, when ingested vaginally, will produce powerful magical kids.
Maria Watches Over Us
Maria Watches Over Us started the yuritopia craze – anime set in all-girl schools (often Catholic, because, you know, all love a repressed girl gone naughty) where everyone is a lesbian and conflict doesn’t exist. As the yuritopia moniker suggests, these anime are snorefests. Neither sexy nor deep, neither engaging nor fun, Maria Watches Over Us has nothing going for it.
What an ugly anime. Clichés and a terrible protagonist destroy any appeal, even once you get past the art.
The early 2000s had many anime sporting girls/women with guns, usually with a sombre, psychological tone about their traumatised states of mind from all the killing. Noir, like its sister series, doesn’t quite hit the mark. It wallows too much in self-pity. Twenty-six episodes is too long for a story so thin on content.
Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva
I love the Layton games. Their charm, quirky characters, storybook art, mysteries, and puzzles make them a delight. Eternal Diva doesn’t succeed in many of these qualities. It looks like the games, but not much more. The mystery doesn’t engage as it should and the puzzle element feels clumsy. It’s okay, at most.
Read or Die TV
Three bookish sisters can control paper, which is one cool power and what attracted me to Read or Die. I wish it had substance and that the sisters had more than their one defining trait. I’m told the OVA prequel is superior. I may check that out.
I went into Scrapped Princess thinking it was an adventure similar to Orphen or Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s not. Two warrior siblings escort their outcast younger sister on a rather dull adventure. I mostly remember the twist for the final act, which was a good idea, though the poor build up weakened its impact.
s-CRY-ed, now this was my jam! I loved this anime. I don’t remember much of the plot. I think it was like Marvel’s Civil War, where anyone with powers must work for the government while rebel supernaturals live in a lawless zone, or some such. Regardless, the action was where it mattered. s-CRY-ed is wall-to-wall crazy action and ridiculous characters, to the best of my memory. With a title like s-CRY-ed it had better be. You know, I think I’ll give this a full review. It may shatter my fond memories, but perhaps it might be just as fun as I remember. (Since been reviewed here)
Searching for the Full Moon
This was in the top 10 on some anime database a decade ago, so of course I had to watch it. Gee willikers, I was in for a great time! Only 52 episodes? Give me more! … A few episodes in, I wanted to end it all in a hail of bullets. Searching for the Full Moon is about a little girl with throat cancer whose dream is to be a popstar. Lucky for her, the shinigami that come to collect her soul instead decide to transform her into a 16 year old so she can sing. Apart from embodying the usual emotionally manipulative schlock of its genre, Searching for the Full Moon teaches awful morals to little girls, the target audience. Forget hard work, effort and merit – if you wish hard enough, everything will be okay! Watch Kodocha instead.
Stellvia of the Universe
Geneshaft but with a slice of life leaning, Stellvia of the Universe is a sleeping drug – a mercy, if you ask me, with that character design. This anime should have had that ‘cosy’ feeling I love from the likes of Gundam SEED. It doesn’t.
Suzuka was the first anime I streamed online. Back then, studios would put entire series on YouTube to watch for free. The ease of access made me watch all 26 episodes in a day, even though it was your average high school drama. Worst part? It’s incomplete. You have to read the manga, which I’ve heard takes all sorts of dramatic turns.
I’m fairly certain Vandread was in the first 10 anime I watched. I’m not sure why I chose this above all other great titles available. Must have been a random choice. I completed both seasons in quick succession because it was anime. I don’t know what I would think of Vandread today. The premise screams of trash. Men and women have lived on separate planets for generations (they reproduce through cloning, if I recall), becoming alien to each other to the point of going to war. An incident forces a crew of men onto the same ship as a crew of women for some comedy hijinks. Perhaps I’ll revisit Vandread when bored.
Yes, Witchblade is based on the American comics featuring a woman with the minimum amount of coverage not to fall in the ‘nude’ category. Unlike Agent Aika however, Witchblade is a decent anime. It has a solid protagonist in the mother doing all she can for her daughter as they stay on the run from the government and evil organisations. She can transform into the Witchblade, which makes her a target. This is worth your time if you want some fun action with an older protagonist that is easy on the eyes. Medium rating.
Marvel licensed out several properties for anime conversion at one time. They are all straightforward adaptations without any surprises, incorporating Japan as the location, to forgettable success. These Marvel anime are too generic. Except for Blade – that’s straight trash.
You’re Under Arrest
This police comedy comes from the same author as Ah! My Goddess. It’s very much a comedy of its time, the 90s. Leave it in the archives unless you love that era.
It’s time to duel! Alright, here’s what you do: watch a season or just a few episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh to get a feel for its ludicrous world of a children’s card game. Then, go watch Yu-Gi-Ohthe Abridged Series. That fan series made by one guy is comedy gold up to the conclusion of the main story. As for the anime, it is goofy fun designed to sell you on the real card game. I’m unsure if the overdramatic duels are intentionally or accidentally hilarious.
I have reviewed Zoids: New Century Zero, a fun battle anime about 3-on-3 duels with robot dinosaurs. Zoids proper features an ongoing adventure story instead of the battle format. Typically, that’s a good idea…if you have a good story and likeable characters. Zoids is a forgettable shounen you should forgo in favour of New Century for some genuine fun.
So, that’s the list, excepting Neon Genesis Evangelion, whose review is on the way out now. Only the insanity of s-CRY-ed tempts me to go back, and perhaps Vandread – that premise must result in a so-bad-its-good anime, surely. As for the rest, I’d rather venture into new territory than retread old ground I probably wouldn’t have much fun with today. My ‘plan to watch’ list is long enough as it is. Speaking of, I’m devising a technique to clear a large chunk of the backlog in a month or so once my current work is complete. Having 200 titles waiting in line makes me anxious. I need a leap in progress. And soon.
The following titles are my favourite anime as they stand today. I won’t include movies, for I see them as vastly different entities (like comparing cars to planes) despite sharing an artistic medium and will create a separate list in future. I will avoid repetition to the Former Favourites list, so read that one for more information of shared titles.
I have heard it said that one’s ‘favourites’ of any given medium will consist of about 10% of viewed titles, which would give me ~40 slots to work out of ~400 unique titles completed. However, making a list of 40 is too easy; it requires no sacrifices. And what do I always say about great conflict? It requires sacrifice! As such, here are my 20 favourite anime with a few honourable mentions.
Hellsing Ultimate – Hellsing Ultimate is an awesome anime, no doubt. Sadly, it lacks a corner of the holy trinity – multi-layered plot – to stand alongside the greats.
Baccano! – I do love Baccano. It has my holy trinity of storytelling, but its structural flaw interferes with everything. A re-edit would likely move Baccano up in my estimation.
Rumbling Hearts – If only Rumbling Hearts had better visuals – style, technicals, camerawork, etc. – to complement the crippling drama. Don’t misunderstand, I still highly recommend this anime, though there’s something to be said for aesthetic quality affecting the dramatic appeal.
Ah! My Goddess – Of all titles on this list, Ah! My Goddess fell furthest in my esteem. Nostalgia will forever keep this anime alive, though most of my favouritism leans on the movie, which I do consider great to this day.
The Favourites in rough ascending order – only the final is my definite favourite
I still love Escaflowne, but… But, when I have seen similar fiction that’s better in every way, I cannot help but compare the two, thus limiting how high this anime can rank. I suspect nostalgia keeps this one higher than intended.
My sentiments are largely the same as before on Initial D. My one change in opinion would be a greater disappointment towards its flaws, particularly the drama between Takumi and his girlfriend. It’s a true shame that Initial D’s romance is the scraps of other titles on this list.
Shiki’s striking character designs remain some of anime’s best. They are so memorable and distinct in that special ‘anime’ way without making me cringe as I would from most colourful casts. Oh yeah, and there’s the whole business of having tense vampire horror through to the end. Shiki rose on my list after a rewatch.
Psycho-Pass exemplifies the science-fiction genre, posing a hypothetical question that makes you think long after the credits roll. Would you trade all freedom for perfect security? The world design is brilliant as well. We shall not speak of the second season.
I fell in love with this immediately. Nodame and Chiaki’s chemistry is top notch, reminiscent of Full Metal Panic’s main couple (and sharing ma boi Tomokazu Seki). On top of that, Nodame Cantabile understands what it takes to be a successful artist in a manner rarely seen in fiction. Plus the music is perfect.
If you recall my former favourites, Cowboy Bebop didn’t rank. Now however, my appreciation for the anime has matured, for closer examination and an ability to enjoy each episode as a standalone story differentiates it from other titles. Many anime have tried to emulate the story-lite, character-heavy style of Cowboy Bebop. Few succeeded.
This was a surprising find. I had Death Parade in my collection for years before witnessing its greatness. Little did I know of the gem that sat in storage. Death Parade is little more than my holy trinity – complex characters, unforgiving conflict, and multi-layered plots – distilled into short stories pitting dead souls against each other as they reflect on life’s mistakes. The second episode is still atrocious though.
Death Note remains a favourite of mine for how well crafted its first season is. There is so much to learn about pacing, point-of-view, and conflict in Death Note. Even the weaker second season can teach you plenty about what not to do with a fantastic story.
Gungrave seems to have dropped many ranks, hasn’t it? In truth, I don’t love Gungrave any less than I once did. Rather, my ceiling of preference has increased, making room for new titles. Harry and Brandon’s arc is as great as it has ever been.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood replaced the original Fullmetal Alchemist among my favourites. The more complete packaged with a superior ending makes this replacement inevitable – giving more screen time to the best character, Roy Mustang, certainly doesn’t hurt either. The original’s best moments remain excellent, but one should never underestimate the satisfaction of a complete story.
I am mad scientist! Steins;Gate was a surprise. A reader requested I review this anime and it blew me away with its intense story and, more importantly, phenomenal cast of characters. Okabe (in English) is a special sort of character – and I don’t just refer to his insanity. I wouldn’t be surprised if I love this one more in a few years. If you can go into Steins;Gate blind, then do so.
If you read my review for The Rose of Versailles, you’ll know that the first act and false start almost quashed my interest in the story. It’s a testament to how strong the latter acts are that they erased all negative sentiment towards the first act. The French Revolution is a rich moment in history, ripe with storytelling opportunities that I hope to revisit.
My ultimate love of Full Metal Panic shifted from the original to the pure-comedy spin-off, Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. Damn hilarious. To become a favourite of mine, a story must have the trinity of components. The one exception is being hilarious. If a series is hilarious with fun characters, it goes straight to my heart. As it happens, Fumoffu has great characters and surprising turns in the story while remaining hilarious all the time.
To this day, Johan is still one of fiction’s greatest villains. The cold, calm psychopathy beneath his prim exterior create an unsettlingly unforgettable character. Every step in Monster’s winding mystery urged me onwards. If the quality were any less, I would not have made it through this lengthy series.
My thoughts on Code Geass haven’t changed from my Former Favourites list. If anything, my greater experience in anime since has made me appreciate the skill with which the character arcs and conflict weave together. It has its share flaws, no question, but it’s my sort of story. “Kill all the Japanese,” will forever rest in anime’s most haunting moments.
I should have loved this series from the start, back when I watched a few episodes at initial release. Gankutsuou is a better Gungrave. I figure that my lack of interest stemmed from Gankutsuou’s subtlety. Much of its characters’ complexities and motivations come from subtext, which Gungrave only has in its two main characters. When I make a best character list, the Count will be up there.
If you’ve read my review for Legend of the Galactic Heroes, it should come as no to see this title as number one. No anime executes the holy trinity better than Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It took me a long time to finish this series not because I lost interest, but because the plot and characters are so involved that I required free time without distractions. I wonder if any anime will beat this…
So, What’s Changed?
The most obvious change to any of you who read the Former Favourites list should be the slide in Gungrave’s rank. As I say above, I don’t love it less; I love others more. The other notable change is Ah! My Goddess. I have seen so much romance, across all fiction, that Ah! My Goddess no longer serves the purpose it once did.
What hasn’t changed is my love of revenge plots. Near half the anime on this list have a revenge element of some sort. What can I say? I love the conflict it brings.
If you sort my reviews by rating brackets, you’ll notice a few ‘Very High’ rated anime absent from this list. With Parasyte, I believe Shiki takes all the real estate for that type, even though Parasyte is probably the better anime. Again, the visual component makes the difference.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica being moe has the odds stacked against it. I will eat a moe plushie if a moe anime ever makes it as a favourite of mine. Still, it says a lot about its quality to receive that rating with a moe face.
There are other titles I surprise myself at having not included: Berserk (needs completion), Free (super fun!), From the New World (first act inhibits any inclination to rewatch this), Nana (if not for the final act), Princess Jellyfish (too unfinished), and Golden Boy (best harem nonetheless) to name a few. A distinct lack of sports titles also leaps out at me. Even a top 40 list would have two, maybe three, sports entries right now. My quest continues in that genre.
Lastly, there is the anime I have yet to watch, which has some 200 unique titles on the list. Odds are something will climb the winners’ mountain. Giving the list a glance and judging by the cover, I see potential in Gintama, Gundam the Origin, Mushi-Shi, Toradora, Space Brothers, Hunter x Hunter (would be the first battle shounen to make it), and Katanagatari. Then again, many potential-filled titles fell far short of greatness in the past. Here’s to hoping for the best with the next 200 anime.
Before I figure out my current favourite anime, I want to look back at my favourites as they stood before I started this site. More than that, this is an opportunity to explore my progression in taste over the years, and perhaps it will make you think back on your own progression.
(I won’t be including movies.)
Honourable Mentions – A few noteworthy titles from my past
Dragon Ball Z – Before I was into anime proper, I was obsessed with Dragon Ball Z as a teen on a level you cannot comprehend. This was before I knew these morning cartoons went by the term ‘anime.’ In fact, it was getting into the medium beyond the morning programs that broke me out of my love for this show. I realised there was so much better. Now, not even nostalgia can make me interested in Dragon Ball Z.
Naruto – Naruto was my Dragon Ball Z replacement a year or two later. After I marathoned the first 50 episodes, I watched it week-to-week, eager to see what happens next as I discussed it with my friends at school. Then the filler started during the long wait for Shippuden. Episode after episode wasted our time with the crummiest writing, and without an end in sight, I dropped it. I would watch Shippuden in due course, but with that garbage filler packed between proper seasons, that too tell fell to the wayside around episode 200. I have yet to finish it.
The Twelve Kingdoms – I still love this fantasy epic and I am still waiting for a conclusion. It can’t be a favourite when so incomplete.
Orphen – one of my most watched anime that will always evoke fond memories. With age however, greater depth called to me.
Basilisk – this Romeo & Juliet tale of two lovers from rival ninja clans just missed the cut.
My first romance anime. I didn’t intend to find this anime. It was a matter of restricted circumstance. I had a voucher for a store with a limited selection of anime and I picked up Ah! My Goddess the Movie because of Belldandy’s cover art. Loving the movie, I bought both DVDs for the 5-episode prequel series and fell in love. The sweetness of Keiichi and Belldandy’s romance filled me with the warmth of pumpkin soup. I would watch the series and movie whenever feeling down.
If I close my eyes, I can still hear the hype-inducing eurobeat of Initial D. I must have listened to those soundtracks a thousand times, probably more, over many commutes, levelling sessions in World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars vanquishes. More than eurobeat, Initial D made me love cars (including the brilliant Top Gear). I was most impressed by how gripping this anime made the racing battles. One wouldn’t imagine that fights without a single punch could muster such intensity.
I still remember the first time I saw the Escaflowne Guymelef animated on screen – coolest thing I had seen in anime. The mechanics of it all shows the creator’s love for world building. Again, the romance was a strong factor in my attachment to Vision of Escaflowne. I travelled with Van and company through the world of Gaea several times over the years.
Who didn’t love Fullmetal Alchemist? The creativity author Hiromu Arakawa infused into her world, characters, and alchemy still inspires me to this day. My reasons for favouring this anime are obvious.
Gundam SEED is still my favourite Gundam series (The Origin may usurp the throne however). There is a certain type of story I love. I don’t know what to call it. You have a group of people, almost like a family, yet with internal conflict as well as the external, travelling together is some form of vessel whether it be car, ship, or plane as they ward off enemy forces. They struggle together, always on the run from something, but they have each other. And during quiet times, they can retreat to their beds inside the vessel. Cosiness permeates this story type and Gundam SEED nails it.
Few stories, let alone anime, have managed to balance action and comedy as well as Full Metal Panic. Full Metal Panic Fumoffu is responsible for a lot of pain to my sides from laughter. Damn that anime is funny. Furthermore, Sagara is one of my favourite characters in all fiction.
No anime kept me in suspense like Death Note had. The pacing, direction, uncompromising brutality of character, and plot forced me to watch one episode after the next. I remember everything about my first viewing, right down to my friend recommending it to me at the Olympic Park. Even the poor second season didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for Death Note.
RahXephon, RahXephon, RahXephon… Of all the anime on this favourites list, RahXephon is the most important to my anime fandom. Sitting down in the viewing theatre at an anime convention, watching the first episode to merely pass the time while I waited for friends, buying the first DVD with the box to fit future discs, the free t-shirt that faded over the years, the anticipation of the next DVD each month at $30 per, the delays that made the wait agony, that one volume with only 3 episodes, and the rush home to dive into the next chapter are all as clear as day. I had rewatched several anime many times each before, but RahXephon was the first I studied, dissecting every character, every motivation, and every action. The wait between volumes led to many rewatches, and even more once I had the set. This dissection is probably why I love RahXephon more than anyone and why I understand how niche it will forever be.
Code Geass is the last anime I watched on this list. If I recall correctly, I only watched this because it was something to watch. I acquired several live action series, films, and an anime or two off a friend, Code Geass included. As I charted the entire world of Guild Wars one day, I started on the anime to ease the tedium of rubbing my character’s face against every wall and mountainside of Tyria. It wasn’t long before I stopped playing and gave all attention to Lelouche in his quest for revenge. Like Death Note, Code Geass was edge-of-your-seat intense that kept you guessing to the end (and what an end it was). I did not watch much anime for several years following.
Why was Gungrave my favourite? It was a combination of factors. First, it took great effort for me to acquire the episodes with no legal means, when torrenting was in its infancy and data caps made the wrong download a month-long error. Second, the grit and style gave a mature tone I hadn’t seen at the time. Most of all, the dynamic between Brandon and Harry and the tragedy of their friendship resonated with me. The turmoil they and the rest of the characters go through engaged me so. I’m sure everyone has that one story you connect to in a way you can’t explain. It’s what makes the oddest story, the most niche story, or even perhaps the worst story somebody’s favourite.
The romance interest is obvious. I was a teenager looking for love, (I found it, but that’s a story for another time) and the romance genre, one I considered dumb and, to own the truth, for girls, was a new avenue. It’s was like discovering a new type of music I hadn’t considered before. Now I can’t get enough of romance across all mediums.
As for the prevalence of plots about righting a wrong, often portrayed as revenge, I guess it appealed to my sense of justice. I abhor an imbalance of justice and seeing people get even is engaging. However, should the means of getting even be illegal, then there must be consequences. And that’s what these anime did well – they didn’t let their characters get even by any means necessary without consequences.
You may have noticed that there are several notable absences from this list. Where’s Evangelion? Didn’t you give Monster your highest rating? For the sake of all anime gods, high and trash, what about Gankutsuou? Well, Evangelion wasn’t a favourite (full review coming soonhere as to why), Monster rather bored me – believe it or not – and Gankutsuou fell to the wayside for some mysterious reason. We shall see what has changed since then in my New Favourites article.
So, now I ask you, what were your favourites years ago (or currently, if you are new to anime)? Remember, there are no wrong answers.